By Harold Meyerson, The American Prospect

[This week could be labeled ‘Reconciliation Madness Week’, and it deserves our attention. Biden’s signature programs are at stake after the painstaking work of getting progressives and moderates to make a deal. While tensions still exist, the opposition is primarily from a handful of corrupt and conservative Democrats, with the vast majority of moderates and progressives working fairly well together. The Prospect’s Harold Meyerson has some advice for the negotiators, on all sides.]

This week, Democrats face some excruciating choices. They have to find a consensus across almost their entire caucus to pass the most comprehensive and long-overdue provision of socially and economically necessary public programs since the New Deal. Senators like Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) have balked at the topline spending number of $3.5 trillion, though progressives have called this the bare minimum needed for their constituents on health care, climate, education, child poverty, affordable housing, and a host of other priorities that have been delayed for far too long.

It’s a choice that my colleague David Dayen has labeled a “Sophie’s Choice”: In order to reduce a $3.5 trillion package to, say, $2 trillion (or whatever the negotiations between the party and its center-right outliers yield), should Democrats preserve every program at a half-funded level, or fully fund some programs while dumping the others? The former option leaves open the possibility that they could more adequately fund all those programs, once established, in future Congresses, though the public benefits of those half-fundees may be so scattershot that they don’t gain much public support. The latter option will produce some programs that do indeed satisfy public needs, while putting the rest on indefinite, perhaps decades-long, hold.

But at least in theory, there’s a third option: Fully funding every program in the $3.5 trillion package—not for the next decade, as the package proposes, but just for the next four years, at a considerable reduction in price.

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